A Christian pastor from Black Mountain will remain in a Turkish prison after his appeal for release was denied on Thursday.
Andrew Brunson was imprisoned on Dec. 9 on a false terrorism charge, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a not-for-profit religious corporation based in Washington, D.C. The center, which represents Brunson’s family in its efforts to release him, announced Thursday’s court ruling.
Brunson was held without charges since Oct. 7. He was imprisoned on Dec. 9 on “a serious, yet completely unfounded, charge – ‘membership in an armed terrorist organization,’ ” according to a statement by the center. “In fact, the charging documents do not present any evidence against him.”
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An appeal to a higher court is allowed, but it is uncertain how that will proceed, according to the center.
“Previously, Pastor Andrew was denied access to his Turkish attorney,” the center’s statement said. “Now, he is allowed visits with his Turkish attorney. However, due to an emergency decree in Turkey, those visits are recorded, and any notes taken by his attorney are copied. Thus, Pastor Andrew has no attorney-client privilege.”
On Wednesday, Brunson was allowed a visit with his family, according to the center. During that visit, he indicated that, while he had been previously denied a Bible, he is now allowed to have a New Testament.
Brunson also has a visit with U.S. Embassy officials scheduled for Friday.
“Although Pastor Andrew has finally been allowed a family visit and some access to his attorney, he is still wrongfully imprisoned and the charge he faces is serious,” the center’s statement said. “Pastor Andrew must be released. We are continuing our diplomatic efforts to engage the incoming U.S. administration, and moving forward with an appeal of his case.”
As of Thursday evening, 141,551 people had signed an online petition urging Brunson’s release.